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Fri 8th Jul 2016 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: The emergence of the taproom, developing female entrepreneurs, and the future of digital is boutique
Authors: Glynn Davis, Ann Elliott, and Georgia Hall

The emergence of the taproom by Glynn Davis

Over numerous years of drinking and writing about beer I’ve made so many visits to different breweries that it is now tough to remember them all. But what does linger very clearly in my memory from each one of them is the feeling that is enjoyed when the brewery “tour” is almost complete and a visit to the taproom is imminent. Taprooms have been the inner sanctum where beers are dispensed direct from the barrels at their optimum conditioning and where there is an opportunity to discuss with the brewer exactly what is being consumed and their thinking that went into the beer. This combination has always remained a heady cocktail.
 
No surprise therefore that in my opinion one of the most enjoyable aspects of the rise of craft brewing has been the emergence of taprooms that are not just available to visitors booked on formal brewery tours but are also open to the general public. The door is kept wide open for anybody to pop in for a quick one or spend a long lazy afternoon or evening soaking up both the alcohol and ambience in equal measures. For the many craft brewers currently building up their reputations and working on capturing sales, the taproom is the ideal way for them to showcase their beers and to introduce their brewery and its ethos to new drinkers. They are excellent marketing tools. And whereas once they were small rooms tucked away, they are now placed right in the heart of many breweries.
 
Sitting amid mash tuns and fermenting vessels is pretty much de rigueur today for brewery taprooms, which very much feeds the desires of the new beer drinker. Speaking with Duncan Sambrook, founder of Sambrook’s Brewery in London’s Battersea, recently he reckons people now want to see exactly where their beer is made and they are much more knowledgeable today with much more complex questions they want to ask when visiting. His newly renovated taproom (that overlooks the fermenting vessels) and downstairs bottle shop have together received £65,000 in order to upgrade the experience to better accommodate drinkers. It now holds up to 50 people, including regular drinkers rather than just one-off visitors on one of its regular nightly tours.
 
For some craft brewers the taproom can also serve another function. If they are producing just below the 5,000-hectolitre level then they pay a much reduced duty on their beer. So if they decide to stay below this level then any on-trade sales that can be made at a higher margin, rather than if the beer was being sold into pubs, is welcomed. Windsor & Eton Brewery is in just such a position and so it uses its taproom to generate a more profitable higher margin per barrel, while it stays below 5,000HL, as well as selling merchandise and charging for brewery tours. Despite its increased popularity, Sambrook does not believe his taproom affects the local pubs and bars or off-licences. He says its modest £3,000 weekly takings enable the brewery to break-even on the room and shop and its existence is justified on the grounds of its benefit as a marketing tool and that it provides a location where the full Sambrook’s range can be showcased.
 
This is likely to be the case for the majority of taprooms because the one downside for most of them is their location, which is typically well away from big residential areas where drinkers can easily walk to and from the venue. A solution might be at hand. An interesting development is currently taking place in north London from Beavertown Brewery, which has taken over a pub for one month ahead of its lease being assigned full-time to a pub company. While this could be seen as simply a pop-up pub, it could also equally be seen as effectively taking the taproom to the customers. Although the actual Beavertown tap is not exactly in the middle of nowhere and it often gets mobbed, this new arrangement is arguably a much better way for the brewery to showcase its extensive range of beers and align these with a fuller food offer and regular live music that is simply not possible with any frequency at its brewery taproom on an industrial estate.
 
This follows the move by acclaimed Buxton Brewery to open the Buxton Tap House in the centre of Buxton, which stocks a hefty range of the brewery’s beers on tap and is easily accessible to drinkers – unlike the brewery, which is on the outskirts of the town. This could just be the next evolution of the taproom. The natural step for the more popular craft breweries that are constrained by location and space limitations at their brewery sites is to simply transplant their taprooms to another site. It won’t have quite the same heady allure of the traditional taprooms that I’ve enjoyed visiting over many years but it will no doubt make commercial sense for certain breweries. And it’s not as if this pub opening lark isn’t a tried and trusted route for brewers to get their beers into more customers’ hands. It’s a path successfully trodden by lots of brewers over centuries. We’ve been here before.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

Developing female entrepreneurs by Ann Elliott

Earlier this week, Elliotts held a lunch for 60 leading women in the leisure and hospitality sector inspired by an article Luke Johnson wrote for the Sunday Times in February. In the article he says: “I believe role models matter most if people are to take a chance and start a business. There are many high-profile men to inspire male entrepreneurs, but too few shining examples for women.”
 
And he went on to comment: “Understandably, some women do not want to make sacrifices over their children’s upbringing. The huge effort required to develop a business leads to trade-offs in family life – making the journey harder for female entrepreneurs.” Luke kindly accepted our offer to speak and didn’t seem to mind being the only man in the room (he finds that happens quite often). Several themes emerged about female entrepreneurship from his talk and from the lively conversations we had around the tables afterwards.
 
1. Having a great idea is pretty important really. All those times when you think, “I wish I could find/buy/have” but can’t, give rise to potential ideas that could work with time, effort and application. The thought of bringing an idea to fruition gives entrepreneurs their energy, drive, determination and motivation. It inspires their dreams.
 
2. Being single-minded about this is critical. Having an idea and seeing it through from conception to realisation (never mind driving it to success) is not for the faint hearted or for those who give up at the first hurdle. Entrepreneurs don’t let go of their vision or their passion to make things happen. They are focused and determined, working round obstacles, rather than letting them derail the whole shooting match. They don’t let anything get in their way.
 
3. Work-life balance is a concept but not a reality for the successful entrepreneur. It’s not possible to just work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, cook tea every night, put the children to bed, read the paper, watch the television, be in bed by 10pm, get eight hours uninterrupted sleep and achieve success.
 
4. Having a supportive partner (who understands what you are doing and why – and pulls their weight) and getting help in (childcare, shopping, cleaning, ironing, cooking, running errands) were seen as vital. It is impossible to do it all and be the perfect wife, mother and chief executive day in, day out.
 
5. Having a mentor and/or role model is a real help – “probably more so than the money” commented one person. A mentor needs to know and understand the journey of the entrepreneur, help them keep the end goal in mind, provide contacts and be there when the going gets tough.
 
6. Being an entrepreneur is brutal. It’s a life of ups and downs, of success and failure, of constantly learning from both (probably more from the latter than the former). It’s hard, relentless, unforgiving and frustrating. Entrepreneurs need very thick skins.
 
7. Being happy at speaking in public and being able to deliver convincing presentations are both very useful skills for the budding entrepreneur – best learnt at as early an age as possible.
 
8. Having a thick skin is particularly important for women when they do decide to put their head above the parapet – if criticism does come their way then it can be virulent and probably a lot more personal than any criticism levelled at a male equivalent. Clothes, shoes, hair, age, marital, and child status are all seen as appropriate targets.
 
So why should any woman consider becoming an entrepreneur if it’s so hard, so brutal and so punishing personally? The entrepreneurs amongst us would say it’s because creating something from scratch, being your own master, having freedom, seeing success – beats all the downsides. I, for one, am really determined to try to help as many women as possible become entrepreneurs in this sector. And I have a couple of ideas on how to make this happen – soon.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of leading sector public relations and marketing agency Elliotts – www.elliottsagency.com
 

The future of digital is boutique by Georgia Hall 

The digital landscape has changed dramatically in the past 20 years and is now filled with independents offering commercial technology solutions to hospitality brands that can quickly and cheaply transform the way they work. I’ve just helped successfully rejuvenate the Café Rouge brand for Casual Dining Group and have worked with brands including Strada, Pod, Chop’d, Belgo, Bella Italia, Searcys, The Arts Club, YO! Sushi and Chelsea FC across all brand touchpoints for the past ten years, including digital. Each one had its own IT and technology systems regarding web server/hosting, e-commerce system, apps and applications, EPOS, CRM/database, social media, email, e-bookings etc.

Four billion people today have access to the internet and digital is the best brand gateway for communications in terms of speed of set up and cost efficiency for proving return on investment. As someone who also used to run a top digital ad agency and oversee all business-to-business solutions for Microsoft for many years, I know how millions of pounds can be spent and a huge chunk of business budget can be potentially wasted on each area, for large and small operators. 

I’m currently in the throws of setting up on my own as a brand consultant, so even I need a website/email/e-commerce system set up fast, and at a realistic price. Doing my research on emerging technologies, I’ve discovered there are many new excellent small systems and applications launching across the hospitality industry right now by new independent companies, at very reasonable prices, which I can now share with you.

My favourite “fast” app is Flypay, which lets you pay at the table directly, negating the need for a waiter, which I recently experienced at Wahaca. Flypay works with Apple to deliver a range of mobile solutions to enable customers to say goodbye to all the hassles that get in the way of having a great time. So, no more scrums at the bar or trying to catch the elusive waiter’s eye. No more painful mental arithmetic trying to split the bill seven ways. 

Flypay solutions include “Pay at Table”, which reduces the payment process from an industry average of 10.5 minutes to under one minute; “Pay at Bar”, which lets customers set up a tab via a mobile app; and “Order at Table”, which automatically logs an order to the kitchen as well as “Order and Collect”, which lets customers order their takeaway meal via the app, then jump the queue, because their food is ready waiting when they arrive. The system also includes loyalty and Flypay is currently in Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Chilango. At a small fee for set up and a nominal percentage of the business, it’s a game changer.

Meanwhile my favourite touchscreen ordering system is by the Robot Pub Group, which I had great fun interacting with at the “Thirsty Bear” pub in Waterloo, London, last week. Ali, the founder, started the business because of a major personal frustration at slow service in busy pubs and a desire to skip queues and keep a table whilst ordering beers.

Perhaps, also very suited to a tech brand like YO! Sushi or an urban pizza company, the on table screen “Robot” mini television-style touchscreen running in this pub is fantastic and fun. Customers can also enjoy the benefits of ordering cocktails and even choosing songs on the jukebox via the “Robots” at a very low cost. Ali says: “We are also launching a cloud-based EPOS now as well, so sites can run with what they already have and get up and running with just £500 worth of kit and a monthly fee.”

Digital PR agency Threepipe reports food and restaurant brands are also increasingly working with social media influencers, rather than traditional media, and Instagram is currently the biggest brand growth area for them and their clients. Check out their client case study on https://vimeo.com/171573452, which helped amass 27,000 Instagram followers. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with “symmetry breakfast”, led by self-styled start-up foodie Michael Zee, who has a staggering 500,000 Instagram followers and has just launched his own cookbook.

Meanwhile, a top online food retailer confided to me it had just moved away from a major industry e-commerce solution to the simple “Shopify” rental style hosting and e-commerce provider as it made far more long-term commercial sense. Also, its webstore hosting costs are now almost nil, saving them thousands of pounds a year.

I also found a fledgling data insight company this week called Tenzo, which works with some of Domino’s and Wendy’s franchisees as well as Hummus Bros. Its ambition is to assist quick-service restaurants, who fight for a tight margin. Basically Tenzo analyses the data – from EPOS to digital dashboards – and serves up recommendations for operations managers and marketing teams to drive the top line and therefore save costs. Broadly it saves a typical restaurant location £8,000 per year and charges it only £60 per month per location.

In conclusion, tech brands and new innovative solutions are launching at a fast growth spurt and restaurants are choosing many different approaches to their IT decision making. It’s a fast changing landscape and the benefits of partnering with a new boutique independent tech brand is of course the lower cost, collaboration in software growth, ownership of data and ability to move fast. 

While the major tech players remain a safe bet because of their big brand expertise, access to extensive partnerships and databases plus the confidence of experience – the choice is yours. I’ve personally chosen a simple free off-the-shelf website design solution from Wix for my own website and, with the help of a very organised freelance digital designer, have launched www.ghbrand.co.uk at a very low cost and the entire process has been simple and straightforward. Please contact Georgia@ghbrand.co.uk for further information on any of the featured providers.
Georgia Hall is former brand director at Café Rouge and founder of independent brand, digital, and marketing consultancy GH Brand 

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